I think part of the problem is the word. According to my dictionary, a deadline is “a line drawn within or around a prison that a prisoner passes at the risk of being shot.” What an image! No wonder I don’t like deadlines. In fact, I prefer not to use the word at all. Instead, I refer to them as due dates. Using a term that frequently describes the projected birthdate of a child seems much more appropriate. After all, what’s due on the date formerly called a deadline is another form of creation, a manuscript.
Whether you call them deadlines or due dates, they’re important parts of a writer’s life. Consistently meeting due dates is the hallmark of a professional writer. Whether the due date is for the entry of a manuscript into a contest or its delivery to an editor as part of a contract, it’s important – I’d even say vital – that the date be met. I won’t claim that it’s easy, but I offer four techniques that can improve the probability of meeting your due dates.
1. Set a realistic date. If it’s already the end of March and you want to enter a completed manuscript in a contest on April 15 but you haven’t started writing, odds are that that particular date isn’t realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure. Instead, plan to enter the contest next year. Similarly, if an editor calls to say she loves your proposal and wonders how soon you can have the completed manuscript to her, take a deep breath before you answer. Even better, tell her you need to work out the schedule and you’ll call her back. Then figure out how long it will take, realizing that it’s impractical to think you’ll work eight hours every day. When you’ve created what seems like an achievable schedule, add in a couple weeks for contingencies. Trust me, you’ll need them.
2. Create a picture of your goal. Mental images are great, but I’m talking about a physical picture, one that’ll help motivate you. If your goal is to enter a contest, create a picture of a blue ribbon or a statue with your title on it. If your goal is to send a completed manuscript to your editor, create a picture of a book cover with your name and title on it. Once the picture is complete, make a number of copies. One goes on the refrigerator, another one on the phone, still another on the TV remote. The purpose is to remind you that your goal is your highest priority and that snacking, calling a friend or watching a must-see TV show are keeping you from meeting that goal.
3. Divide and conquer. By that I mean, divide your project into small, manageable tasks, ideally ones that require no longer than a day or two to complete. By doing that, you’ll be able to determine whether or not you’re on schedule. Like the picture, it’s important to have more than a mental plan. You need a written schedule, showing when each chapter (or scene, if you break it down to that level) must be finished. The critical point here is to know whether or not you’re on schedule, and if you’re not, to take corrective action immediately. That leads to the last point.
4. Just say ‘no.’ If you’re going to meet your due date, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll need to make some sacrifices. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: writing needs to be your highest priority. That means that email, Facebook and all the other things that take time away from writing need to be put in second place. And, if your schedule has slipped, that afternoon at the mall may need to be postponed until you’ve met your due date.
There’s no doubt about it. Meeting due dates is hard work. It requires determination and discipline. But you can do it. I know you can, because you’re a writer, and that’s what writers do.
Amanda Cabot has always been a dreamer, and so it’s no coincidence that her first books for the CBA market are called Texas Dreams. Set in the Hill Country beginning in 1856, these deeply emotional historical romances showcase God’s love as well as that between a man and a woman. The first in the trilogy, Paper Roses, was a finalist for the Carol Award. Scattered Petals received critical acclaim, and the final Texas Dreams book, Tomorrow’s Garden, has just been released. A former director of Information Technology, Amanda has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages. She’s delighted to now be a full time writer living in Cheyenne, WY with her high school sweetheart/ husband of many years.
As the seed awaits the spring sunshine, so one young woman hopes for a brighter tomorrow.
Harriet Kirk is certain that becoming the new schoolteacher in Ladreville, Texas is just what she needs—a chance to put the past behind her and give her younger siblings a brighter tomorrow. What she didn’t count on was the presence of handsome former Texas Ranger Lawrence Wood—or the way he affects her fragile heart. But can Harriet and Lawrence ever truly conquer the past in order to find happiness? Book 3 in the Texas Dreams series, Tomorrow’s Garden is a powerful story of overcoming the odds and grabbing hold of happiness.